What and where is the Goldie Spur Track?It’s a 4WD/Fire Access/SEC tower access track which runs up and along the remote south side of Mount Buffalo, below The Horn of Mt Buffalo.
Why would you want to do it by bicycle?It’s a challenging and almost unknown ‘shortcut’ to get to Bright from Whitfield. It involves less kilometres than going via Milawa or Lake Buffalo into Myrtleford, then onto Bright. But using this ‘shortcut’ takes you into some very isolated countryside, involves far more elevation gain, and it’s a track rather than a road. Not much of a shortcut after all.
The story is that some crazy forum members were going to Bright. Rather than drive to Bright as usual, they thought it might be more interesting and enjoyable to ride to Bright. Bike packing luxury style; credit card touring, staying at pubs and caravan parks, but carrying enough food and water to cover the sometimes long days in the saddle where no additional supplies would be available. The route was to be somewhat obscure, remote and challenging.
The five day ride from Melbourne to Bright was on a mix of cyclo-cross and 29er mountain bikes. It involved overnight stops at Reefton/McMahons Creek, Woods Point, Mansfield, Whitfield, then finally into Bright.
for more info on the five day ride from Melbourne to Bright.
The last day was to be the most challenging of all; the ride to Bright via the Goldie Spur Track. Upon arrival at Whitfield the previous afternoon, we inquired with the locals as to the difficulty and condition of the Goldie Spur Track. Nobody knew much about it.
The DELWP (Dept of Environment….) park ranger at Whitfield was very helpful, showing us a good map of the track. Unfortunately the track was not part of his area and he didn’t have any detailed knowledge of it. He put us in phone contact with the park ranger at Ovens, whose area covered the track. The Ovens park ranger believed it was possible to do it by bicycle, as long as the bikes were suitable and the riders were not novices.
Having completed the long gravel climb out of Woods Point with fully loaded panniers a couple of days earlier, we were relieved to find some ‘false flats’ that were only 7%
, so we didn’t consider ourselves novices. So the decision was made to take on Goldie Spur the following day, despite the forecast heat.
Riding the Goldie Spur Track was going to put us on the south side of Mt Buffalo. Possibly in its shade, and possibly under the cover of trees. What could go wrong? After all, it was going to be a ride of only 83km. With around 1800m of climbing! Most of it on gravel and loose rock!!
We departed Whitfield at 6am the next day in an attempt to beat the heat, carrying ample water supplies on the bikes and in our panniers. Cheshunt was the next town we passed through before hitting the Rose River Road. This road is often just a track. It has some minor climbs which are somewhat challenging due to the gradient and gravel, but it’s not too difficult. This road/track then picks up the Rose River and follows it through beautiful countryside before ending up at Dandongadale. Dandongadale is a locality where a few roads and tracks intersect near a river, with nothing else there.
The Goldie Spur Track commenced just over the range from Dandongadale, with the only way to get across being an SEC access track for the high voltage transmission towers. From the start of the access track we looked up at the highest tower on top of the range and thought “Surely we’re not going to go up there?!” But we were, and we did. A series of steep switchbacks and zig-zags took us up and up. It was exhausting. And we hadn’t even got to the Goldie Spur Track yet!
We took in the good views from the top, then commenced our descent to the start of the Goldie Spur Track. Coming down the SEC access track was almost as difficult as getting up. This was due to the steep, sketchy gravel and rock. Easy does it, picking our way through some of the trickier bits.
We were expecting to cross a ford and get our tyres, wheels or legs wet. But a relatively new concrete bridge was found at the crossing, making our job much easier.
The Goldie Spur Track started off relatively easy, having only a slight gradient. Then the steepness increased and the surface worsened. Sections of it were really steep. But the trees, location, wildlife and views were all beautiful. It could have been the isolated end of the world, where nobody visits for years on end. But there we were. In the middle of it and enjoying it (if ‘enjoying’ is the word?).
We could see Mount Buffalo’s south wall. The sunlight reflected off the expansive solid flat stone sections, glistening, making it look like there were mass amounts of water flowing over the side of the mountain. We were getting up higher and closer to it.
The going was getting tougher. The combination of unrelenting gradient (steep or very steep), gravel, rock, tired legs and increasing heat was getting to us. Regroups under shady trees or at scenic outlooks were frequent and welcome.
The GPS unit ride profile was compared to our present location and put us in good spirits. We were almost half way up the climb and about to encounter a long flatter section with a gradient in the single digits. Finally we could make up some time and get some distance behind us. Unfortunately it didn’t last for long and we were back into some major climbing again.
As we neared the end of the main climb, we could hear a vehicle coming up the track, approaching us from behind. What? A vehicle? Out here?
It turned out to be the Ovens park ranger and his offsider. They were doing a patrol along the track and asked if we were the cyclists who phoned from Whitfield yesterday. We were glad and appreciative that they were checking up on us, making sure that we were still alive! They confirmed that we had completed most of the climb and were near the top. They also said we were very fortunate to experience the rarely seen views on the other side of Mount Buffalo. They were happy to see us still in good health and good spirits, then bade us farewell.
Although we were almost done, we were almost done
too. Done like a dinner! The heat was catching up with us. Our GPS units had us at well over 40 degrees in the sun. The real temperature was probably mid-high 30’s. But we were out in the sun with little or no tree cover at these higher altitudes, experiencing the same temperature as our GPS units. To make matters worse, the track was becoming steeper and rockier. More walking and pushing the bikes. Oh well, at least we knew we were near the top. Our water supplies were diminishing at a faster rate, but we were confident we had enough to see us through.
At the top, the track levelled off for some distance and we made good time. There were some sandy sections where caution was required at speed, especially through the corners. Then we commenced the descent which became steeper the further we got into it. We encountered a stalled convoy of four 4WD’s heading up the track from the Buckland Valley. One of them had a ‘mechanical’ so the whole group of them had stopped. There was a look of surprise and amazement on the convoy members’ faces. Cyclists shouldn’t be out here!! Fortunately our bikes didn’t suffer any ‘mechanicals’.
The descent became faster and the surface became rockier. Tyre pressures required much consideration. We wanted to reduce tyre pressures for a smoother ride over the rough stuff. But we had the extra weight of our racks, panniers, luggage etc. How low could the pressure go? One burp? Two burps? Four? Maybe the ‘squeeze test’ was better than the ‘burp count’
Down into the Buckland Valley and back to civilisation, we turned left onto the bitumen of the main road and headed north towards Porepunkah. As beautiful as the ride along the Buckland Valley Road was, it was a bit of a comedown from the uniqueness and ‘other worldliness’ of the Goldie Spur Track. It seemed like a long haul before we finally made it to Porepunkah and familiar territory.
Once into Porepunkah, it was a short ride to the Bright Brewery, where a beer never tasted so good!
Followed up by some of their pulled pork sliders, then a swim in the Ovens River waterhole.
A just reward for completing our five day adventure Map extract showing the Goldie Spur Track
The track runs along the south side of The Horn on Mount Buffalo
After reaching Dandongadale from Whitfield, we headed east, up and over the SEC access track to find the start of the Goldie Spur Track, being very careful not to take a wrong turn and end up at Mt Buggery by mistake (see map)Ride Profile - from Whitfield to Bright
The first gradual climb is up along the Rose River Road (gravel)
The second steeper climb is the SEC access track east of Dandongadale (gravel and loose rock)
The third longer steeper climb is the Goldie Spur Track (gravel and loose rock)View from the Goldie Spur Track looking north towards the eastern ridgeline of Mount BuffaloThe steep rocky surface of the Goldie Spur Track
Sometimes it’s better to walk and push the bike, rather than ride the bikeThe hard part is over
Looking down towards the lower sections of the Goldie Spur Track leading into the Buckland Valley
The power lines in the photo are 220,000 volts running from Eildon to Mount Beauty
The original construction of these lines became a talking point throughout our multi-day ride
Very long spans through steep sections of rugged countryside, both here and in the King ValleyWe made it
A beer or more at the brewery
A swim in the Ovens River